This article will go into detail into the recent Iwata Asks session discussing NEW Super Mario Bros. 2, but I highly encourage reading the translated transcript of the interview yourself. It’s a very interesting read, and between all the insights from developers and Iwata’s great sense of humor, I’m very glad I had the opportunity to cover this interview, even though it took me a while. But whether you choose to read the interview yourself or read my abridged version below, I think you’re in for a treat.
In the recent Iwata Asks session discussing NEW Super Mario Bros. 2, the global president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, interviewed the game’s director Yusuke Amano (who also directed Star Fox 64 3DS) and its art director Masaaki Ishikawa (who most recently worked on Mario Kart 7). Neither Amano nor Ishikawa expected to be assigned the project, and that’s not the only surprise: they were the only two people working on the game that had any prior experience working on a Mario game, though they received help from a few people who were a part of the Super Mario 3D Land project (all the people who had worked on 2D Mario games before were working on NEW Super Mario Bros. U. The assistance has allowed the staff to make the game’s 3D capabilities imitate a modern digital camera’s usage of blur to provide depth.
The initial development of NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 also began a little backwards. “...Normally when people imagine how video games are made,” Iwata stated to Amano, “you’d think it starts off by building its base mechanics, and then work on designing the courses. But…this game’s start was a little different.”
“That’s right,” Amano replied. “This time the team that researches course design started working on developing the courses first, and the other staff were called in to turn it into an actual product.” The team in question is an interesting group known as the Mario Cram School, which was founded by Takashi Tezuka (responsible for several Mario, Yoshi, and Animal Crossing games) to teach Nintendo developers across several departments how to make Mario levels and the importance of their design. Both Amano and Ishikawa participated in the Mario Cram School. In fact, most of the staff’s only previous experience with Mario 2D platformers prior to the development of NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 was from the Mario Cram School—and with so many fresh minds, an initiative started to distinguish NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 as not just being the same Mario game as its predecessors.
“The staff had a strong desire this time to think of tough things that people might even get angry about,” Amano said. “And we’ve changed some things…to make a fresh impression. ...the programmers had a lot of ideas that helped steer the direction of the game.” Two of the changes outlined in the interview were a new enemy (the Boohemoth) and the Dash Mario mode. The Boohemoth is a variant of the Big Boo that sneaks up on Mario even if he’s looking at it. The Dash Mario mode involves Mario initially being fired out of a cannon and then forced to run non-stop through the level; the mode was included for beginners who don’t normally have the skill to experience what plowing super fast through a level feels like.
This interview, as well as the previous Iwata Asks session discussing the game, also explained the reason why NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 focuses so much on coins. “I really want people to play [NEW Super Mario Bros. 2] for a long time,” Takashi Tezuka, the game’s supervisor, explained to Satoru Iwata in the earlier interview. “Mario games aways have a bit of that: you plug away at the same course again and again, and before you know it, six months or even a year has passed. We talked about ways we could expand on that idea even further, to find something that would keep people coming back potentially forever. That became the idea behind collecting a million coins. Once we had that, we thought it would be best to tie all the other elements of the game into that million coin concept.”
Amano and Ishikawa elaborated on this in the recent interview. The idea for having a focus on coins came from the ? Blocks in Super Mario 3D Land that got stuck on Mario’s head. The NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 version has coins come out of the block faster if Mario ran while they were on his head—this was implemented to make the feature more exciting and to encourage more players to try playing levels at a fast pace. “For the most part, only players with confidence in their skill can experience how good it feels to run through Super Mario in a dash, but…if a bunch of coins come out when you [dash], it feels great, so more people will feel like tearing on through,” Amano explained. The idea was, however, overturned by Miyamoto due to it not being evident to the player what they are supposed to do once the block is on Mario’s head. Miyamoto didn’t accept it until they decided to make the block not cover Mario’s head until after he knocked several coins out of it first, as he would a regular multi-coin ? Block.
In order to not simply copy off of Super Mario 3D Land, the Golden Koopa, which drops coins when the player kicks its shell, was included, as well as several other golden enemies to make the new Koopa not stand out too much. The Gold Mario power-up was inspired by the P-Switches from previous Mario titles and was added to make it easier to collect coins.
Initially, despite all these features, it was extremely difficult and too time-consuming to amass a million coins. At the same time, the new Coin Rush mode (where Mario speeds through three random levels with only one life), made to give players something small and quick that they could do on the go, lacked any compelling feature to attract players. The team’s solution was to make Coin Rush a fast way to collect a lot of coins. A StreetPass feature was added to make it easier for a weaker player to gather lots of coins; all a player has to do is receive the StreetPass data from a really good player and beat the three Coin Rush stages in order to get the amount of coins the better player collected. It also encourages different people, regions, and countries to compete with each other to collect the most coins; Iwata even envisioned Japan and the USA competing with each other.
It would appear that NEW Super Mario Bros. 2‘s two-player mode just barely dodged a bullet. After seeing how much fun it was to play with multiple people cooperatively in NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii, Tezuka suggested to his staff that a similar cooperative mode be included in NEW Super Mario Bros. 2. When the idea for a cooperative mode similar to the one in NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii was suggested, most of the levels had already been designed specifically for just one player. What’s interesting is that this is the reason why NEW Super Mario Bros. 2‘s multiplayer camera system is so radically different from the one in the aforementioned Wii title. Because there wasn’t enough time to go back and remake all the levels to accommodate for the second player, and because many of the hidden places to explore just didn’t work well with multiple players, the designers of the game decided to make the camera just focus on one person (as if it was just a single player game) and let the players compete for that focus.
Other reasons for the camera’s method of focus include potentially allowing a player to observe a better player if he or she isn’t as skilled, as well as encouraging the two players to communicate and work together rather than try to take each other out. Both players will see the same screen, so that they don’t lose one another.
The inspiration for additional, paid, downloadable levels in NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 came from the very difficult E-Reader levels in Super Mario Bros. Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3. Amano had been wanting an opportunity to do something similar to give players a challenge even if they are good at Mario games. The implementation of downloadable levels happened after Amano presented his desire to Tezuka, who was asked by Iwata to find a way to implement DLC. The downloadable levels will not be made until after NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 is released so that the levels can be assembled with player feedback.
As one last bit of info, White Tanuki Mario from Super Mario 3D Land will be returning in NEW Super Mario Bros. 2.
It’s really interesting to see how different this upcoming game is, both from a development and a gameplay stand point. As Iwata remarks, “...if you think [New Super Mario Bros. 2 is] the same [as previous Mario titles] and don’t take it seriously you’ll run into trouble.” NEW Super Mario Bros. 2 looks to be a great game, and I can’t wait to try it on the 19th. For those of you in Europe or Australia, you can look forward to the game being released in your country on the 17th and 18th respectively.